Make Anime In Japan, Get A Shitty Salary

[Image via Ytimg | P.A. Works]
[Image via Ytimg | P.A. Works]

Making anime isn’t easy! Not only is it a highly skilled profession, but loads of talented people are trying to break in. P.A. Works, the studio behind anime Shirobako, is now hiring for whatever it’s making next spring, and the hourly animator salary is not so good.

Actually, it’s terrible.

What makes this so interesting is that Shirobako was a behind-the-scenes look at the trials and tribulations of making anime.


For new hire animators, pay starts at 770 yen (6.75) an hour. If an animator works 8 hours a day and 260 days a year, the salary would be the equivalent of $14,040. 

That’s way lower than what convenience store jobs pay! Those wages start at around 920 yen ($8) and can get as high as 1150 yen ($10) for the graveyard shift. And the hourly wage at McDonalds is somewhere between 980 yen ($8.60) and 1225 yen ($10.75). 

That’s right, the animator salary is significantly less than minimum wage.

Online in Japan, commenters are comparing this to slave labor and calling it exploitive.


But as crummy as P.A. Works’ pay is, the studio’s hourly rate is actually above average! Which says a bunch about the sad state of anime work conditions.

As Kotaku previously reported, the average wage for animators in Japan is shockingly low. According to a Japan Animation Creators Association survey of 759 animators, the average yearly income is 1.1 million yen (US$9,648). 


At least P.A. Works has a nice looking studio that’s located outside in a rural part of the country, so maybe the cost of living is slightly lower. 

[Image: P.A. Works]
[Image: P.A. Works]

Kotaku East is your slice of Asian internet culture, bringing you the latest talking points from Japan, Korea, China and beyond. Tune in every morning from 4am to 8am.

Originally from Texas, Ashcraft has called Osaka home since 2001. He has authored six books, including most recently, The Japanese Sake Bible.

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Michael Crider

Of course it’s exploitative, it’s an aspirational career with a ton of talented, qualified applicants. Most singers and actors in the US can’t support themselves on performing alone, for broadly the same reason. The animation outsource studios in China and Korea are basically sweatshops that make primetime TV instead of T-shirts.

I’m no economist or sociologist, but it sounds like the underlying problem is a legal minimum wage in Japan that’s far, far below the cost of living. That’s something that’s solved with voting and legislation, not focusing on a single industry.